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The Freeh Report, Joe Paterno and NCAA Sanctions

By       Message Walter Uhler     Permalink
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The man said: "Are you a Penn State grad? What's your name?"

After affirming my status as an alumnus and giving my name, the man said: "I am ______ _____. I played football in the NFL with Penn State grad, Bill Lenkaitis. We've talked about Penn State often and agree, Penn State is f****d."

When I said that the evidence in the Freeh Report actually absolves the Penn State officials for not acting in the wake of Sandusky's investigation in 1998," he abruptly cut in: "You don't know how football teams operate. If one person knew about Sandusky, then everybody knew."

I asked: "Including all the coaches?"

He replied: "Yes, including the coaches."

With that, the former NFL player shook my hand and wished me luck.

I mention that encounter, because I believe that the successive paragraphs on pages 40 and 41 of the Freeh Report deliberately imply that "everybody knew" about Sandusky's pedophilia --even Paterno -- before the investigation of Sandusky's assault in May 1998. If I'm correct, then it's a cheap shot pandering to common sense prejudices, which no amount of contrary evidence can destroy.

May 1998

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Prior to the release of the Freeh Report, there was much speculation about whether Joe Paterno knew or did not know about the investigation of Jerry Sandusky in 1998. Many pundits and Penn State bashers claimed that he must have known. Why, otherwise, would Jerry Sandusky suddenly decide to retire in the middle of 1999? Joe must have forced him out.

Michael Smerconish, writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer was especially irresponsible for fanning the flames of indignation with such speculation. I wrote something different: "The fact that Victim 4 was allowed to accompany Sandusky to the [1999] Alamo Bowl strongly suggests that either Joe Paterno did not know about the 1998 police investigation -- or that he knew, but also knew that the DA found insufficient evidence to indict."

With the release of the Freeh Report we have additional reason to believe the Joe Paterno knew about the 1998 investigation of Sandusky. But, thanks to the report, we also know that Paterno notified Sandusky that he would not become the next head coach months before Sandusky assaulted a young boy in May 1998. Thus, knowledge of the investigation of the alleged assault could not possibly have had anything to do with Sandusky's subsequent retirement.

Now that Joe has been cleared of getting rid of Sandusky in 1999, due to the investigation in 1998, have any of his character assassins -- too readily inclined to think the worst of him -- stepped forward to admit they were wrong? I've not heard of one.

Thanks to the Freeh Report, we also know that (presumably) well-meaning officials botched the 1998 investigation. A rigorous report by psychologist Alycia Chambers, which found evidence of "a likely pedophile's pattern," and which might have led to an indictment of Sandusky, appears to have been shunted aside during a personnel shuffle. Jerry Lauro, the case worker from the Department of Public Welfare who was assigned to the case, has testified that he never would have halted the investigation had he seen the report by Chambers.

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Instead, another review, this time by Counselor John Seasock, took center stage. Seasock's review led to the determination that "there seems to be no incident which could be termed sexual abuse." He also ruled out the possibility of the boy being "groomed for future sexual victimization."

Ultimately "[s]ometime between May 27, 1998 and June 1, 1998, the local District Attorney declined to prosecute Sandusky for his actions with the boy in the shower in the Lasch Building on May 3, 1998." [p. 46]

On June 1, 1998, University Police Detective Ron Schreffler and Lauro interviewed Sandusky, who confessed to hugging the boy in the shower. But he also denied that there was "anything sexual about it." Lauro told Sandusky that it was a "mistake" to shower with kids. And when Schreffler advised Sandusky not to shower with any more kids, Sandusky said he "wouldn't."

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)

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